Friday, October 14, 2011

The Fujifilm X10 - Back to the Future

Fujifilm recently announced the latest addition to its Finepix range of cameras, the X10. A delight for lovers of the classic retro look that was introduced in the earlier and more expensive X100, this compact challenges the prosumer segment with its D-SLR-like capabilities. It is a 12 megapixel camera with a 2/3 in CMOS sensor. It comes with a 4X optical zoom using the new Super EBC Fujinon lens. The display is a 2.8 in LCD that gives 100 percent coverage, while the optical viewfinder gives 85 percent coverage. Here is a first impression of this compact that is almost a D-SLR but looks like a vintage.

The metallic lens barrel houses the new high definition Super EBC Fujinon lens. This has 11 glass lens in 9 groups, with 3 asphericals and 2 extra-low dispersion elements. It gives a wide angle max aperture of 2.0 and a max telephoto aperture of 2.8. The 7-blade aperture lets you add bokeh effects to your photos by using the telephoto zoom.

The Optical Image Stabilizer is another new feature introduced in the X10. This, in conjunction with the advanced EXR-Auto scene recognition algorithm built into the camera ensures that lens aberrations or missed settings adjustments are eliminated automatically.

The 12 megapixel X10 comes with a 2/3 in CMOS sensor. It uses Fujifilm’s EXR processor to capture images in RAW or JPEG or both RAW and JPEG. Like most new launches in the high end compact segment, it offers 1080 Full HD video. It offers 4X optical zoom. ISO ranges from 100 to 6400 by default, and 12800 in extended mode. It comes with a hotshoe for an external flash along with the built-in manual pop-up flash unit. It support SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards.

The all black die-cast magnesium alloy body with its black crinkle finish will take you back to the days of the Voigtlander and Olympus wet film cameras. The small size of 117 X 70 X 57 mm hides within it powerful features that will more than satisfy the enthusiast buyer segment. The intuitive image stabilization and image quality features are neat. The power button on the lens barrel is very handy for quickly capturing photographic moments. The one feature of this camera that will have advanced photographers (especially those who honed their skills on classic wet film SLRs) is the Film Simulation Modes that comes with presets to imitate classic tones like Provia, Estia and Velvia. This was seen in the X100 and has been provided in the X10 as well. The optical viewfinder is something that is making a comeback in compact cameras, especially the high end ones, and this is a blessing for those who like to “see” what they are taking a picture of with their own eyes. The 2/3 in CMOS sensor is a good idea in a segment dominated by 1.7 CCDs.

With zoom factors of 6X and above becoming a norm even for the compact segment, the 4X on this appears a little disappointing. In addition, the optical viewfinder is of the zooming type, and not the hybrid that you have on the X100. The camera specs released by Fujifilm makes no mention of internal memory details. The lens cap, very strangely, comes as an accessory and not a part of the kit.

If your hands itch for the crinkly black metal of the older cameras, and your eyes long to look through an optical rangefinder, but your mind still wants a state of the art digital compact. Look no further, this is the one you want. However, the camera weighs in at 350 g with battery and memory card, a bit heavier than similarly powerful compacts. The low optical zoom too might be an issue for some. In terms of both form factor and image quality features, there are equally good if not better options in the segment, namely the NEX line from Sony and the G12 from Canon. The G12 is priced much lower than the X10 while the top end of the NEX line is just a little more expensive than the $599 that the X10 is expected to start at. In addition, it offers almost all the functionalities of the X100, at the compact price, which may be the one reason to opt for this retro beauty.

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